Book Reviews - Books for Building Your Library

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Feedback comes in many forms. Some of the books we've collected this week explore these variations. We've included a classic children's art book that introduces children to art using simple themes, a wonderful book featuring a pivotal moment in author Richard Wright's life, and we even introduce you to a lovely series of the lives of artists.

More Bears!

As teachers we constantly give feedback to our student writers and encourage them to do them same for each other. This ever-evolving, never-ending dialogue does have its limits, and More Bears! illustrates to even the youngest students that ultimately the author has creative control. Famous for his whimsical animal drawings, Troy Cummings's illustrations of bears are playful, each clearly exhibiting its own special personality. Use this book when you need to clarify the role of feedback to a young writer as well as the ways that feedback can sometimes be too much of a good thing!

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Click here to view this book in Amazon +

The Peace Book

In classic Todd Parr style, The Peace Book communicates big ideas with just a few words. With this clever, sincere, and tender text, readers will find themselves expanding their definitions of peace. Parr's brilliant colors prove worthy companions to his intelligent communication with children (and adults). Explore ways to find peace on the inside and spread peace to others, two worthy goals that could bring a little harmony to your classroom. Read this book twice (at least); you will find a new favorite part every time.

The Jazz Fly

When we consider communication, do we think of music? Matthew Gollub's book The Jazz Fly uses the language of jazz, including hilarious scat refrains, to decipher one genre of musical communication. This rhyming book comes with an audio CD for your listening pleasure, essential when you read the crazy text.

A drummer fly gets lost on his way to a gig. He tries to get directions from a frog, a pig, a donkey, and a dog but none of them speak his language. When he does get to work, the feedback he receives from the Queen Bee at the club is discouraging. She wants a new and innovative sound for her joint. Luckily, the jazz fly remembers the unusual sounds of the creatures he met on the way to work. This delightful book decodes what has been called one of the purest expressions of American democracy.

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Click here to view this book in Amazon +

Max Makes a Million

Maira Kalman illustrates and writes her books with the assumption that children should be exposed to artistic sophistication. The book Max Makes a Million is the story of a struggling artist, a dog who dreams of being a poet in Paris. With artfully arranged text and luscious full color illustrations, the reader dives into Max's colorful life in New York City. Even while yearning to move to Paris, Max celebrates the unusual friends in his life, all dreamers, whether they are scientists, painters or musicians. A fundamental message in this unusual book is that it is important to dream, to have dreams, and to nurture your passion, no matter how crazy it may seem.

A Child's Book of Art

Here at Literacyhead, we believe it's never too early to expose children to art. Lucy Micklethwait's collection, A Child's Book of Art, is the perfect book to add to your collection. More than one hundred images are gathering in this large-format picture book that will captivate children and adults alike. These fine art reproductions are organized by simple themes such as colors, faces, and pets. You will never tire of this broad compilation. Consider this an early start on a study of art history as a large majority of the art represents the last 600 years in the Western world. Keep this book in your classroom and offer it to children when they say "I don't know what to write about," as this collection of images offers abundant visual writing prompts.

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Click here to view this book in Amazon +


Don't let the title fool you, this isn't your typical story about a hungry wolf. A vagabond wolf encounters a farm of educated animals so immersed in their books they don't notice the "scary" wolf. Seriously rebuffed, the wolf can't stand being ignored. Desperate for attention, he enrolls in school to learn to read. Each time the wolf hits a new reading milestone, he returns to the farm to impress the pig, the duck, and the cow. Remaining aloof, the animals give him valuable feedback regarding reading style, rhythm, and fluency. You will love the wolf's persistence as his make repeated visits to the library. At long last, the wolf becomes a skilled and masterful reader, beloved by the entire village.

Richard Wright and the Library Card

William Miller presents this fictionalized account of a real event in the life of writer Richard Wright. Coupled with powerful illustrations by Gregory Christie, Miller's text manages to convey the power of spoken and written words as an undercurrent while eloquently recounting Richard Wright's efforts to read books from the library. From the opening line, "Richard loved the sounds of words," to the last page, "The words came back to him, the stories more real than the train itself," the reader finds insight into the profound power of reading and writing. The narrative also presents some less-talked-about sides of the civil rights movement, connecting both to access to libraries and suppression of education, as well as showing the ways that some white people resisted discrimination.

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Click here to view this book in Amazon +

How Artists See Families

Colleen Carroll brings us a stunning and diverse collection of visual art and presents it in tandem with commentary that explores the artwork, the artist, and family. Divided into sections representing mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers, Carroll presents four pieces of art for each. For example, in the section about "sister," Carroll expounds on Faith Ringgold's "Tar Beach." She describes Ringgold's inspiration, asks questions to support the reader/viewer's thinking, and offers some explanation of the medium. The book is beautiful, filled with full color reproductions of the artwork, and invites the reader to look closely. This text would make a lovely mentor text for a nonfiction study, serving as a template for students to write about families and/or art. How Artists See Families is one title in a lovely series, with individual books exploring how artists see work, play, people, cities, and several other topics. Each book also includes "Notes to Parents and Teachers," biographies of artists, and suggestions further reading.

Interrupting Chicken

It is time for little red chicken to go to bed, and his papa settles in to read him a bedtime story. When Hansel & Gretel are about to eat the witch's house, however, little red chicken can't resist interrupting the story to warn them. Little red chicken rewrites the fairy tale and is wide awake. After interrupting and rewriting the ends of two more classic tales, little red chicken's father gives up, and asks little red chicken to write his own story. At this point the illustrations shift to represent little red chicken's text and pictures. Little red chicken reads his story to his father, which instantly puts his father to sleep. The interaction between little red chicken and the fairy tale characters in this book are delightful. This text is energetically received by students, and they will interact with the story in ways similar to little red chicken's interactions as his father reads. You can use this book to talk about feedback, revision, audience, voice, and reading like a writer. Interrupting Chicken offers rich fodder of writer's workshop.

Click here to view this book in Amazon +
Click here to view this book in Amazon +

Show; Don't Tell! Secrets of Writing

In Show; Don't Tell! Josephine Nabisso engages us in conversation about living a writerly life. She debunks common myths and invites us to think about our writing differently. She writes, "The hard work of writing is to take what no one else can see--what is in your mind... and to put it into words so that the reader has a share in what you are experiencing in your daydream." Nabisso goes on to offer writing insights, as well as opportunities for applying them. She manages to teach topics ranging from voice to grammar, all the while maintaining her interactive style. Eva Montanari's delightful illustrations beautifully support the books intentions. If this book wins any more awards they won't fit on the cover!